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Total Solar Eclipse on April 8

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over parts of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The Solar Media Collective will gather on Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau to observe and document this rare phenomenon.

When & where
We’ll meet at 2pm at DOCK 5160 Verdun Cultural Centre, which is a 15min walk from Verdun metro. Look for PedalBox and the flag with our logo!

A person with long hair riding a bicycle, pulling a trailer with a sign that reads, "Pedal Box Gallery"

The partial eclipse will begin at 2:14. Totality will occur at 3:26 and last for 1 minute and 26 seconds.

A note on safety
Looking directly at the Sun can cause damage to the eyes even under regular conditions. To experience this event safely, it is highly recommended to use solar viewing glasses or “eclipse glasses.” These have a nearly-opaque filter and are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses, which are not safe for viewing the Sun.

When purchasing eclipse glasses, make sure they meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard and are intact (i.e. no holes, scratches, or cracks). Indirect viewing methods, such as pinhole projectors (see further below), are also safe ways to view the eclipse.

During the brief window of totality when the Moon completely blocks the bright, visible surface of the Sun, it’s safe to remove your eclipse glasses and look directly at it. As soon as the Sun begins to reappear, put your protective glasses back on.

The Solar Media Collective will provide some solar viewing glasses, but quantities are limited. Our plan is to share them, but we recommend bringing your own if you want to ensure you have one to yourself.

Read on to learn more about this event as well as the activities we have planned.

Silhouette of a city with the sun beaming overhead. The title reads, "Total Solar Eclipse - April 8, 2024"

SMC Activities

The SMC has several activities lined up dedicated to fully experiencing and documenting this incredible event.

Pinhole Projector Maker Session, April 4
One of the ways to watch the partial phases of a solar eclipse without protective glasses is with an indirect viewing method such as a pinhole projector. These are easy to make using a cardboard box, a sheet of white paper, aluminum foil, tape, and some scissors.

We’ll be making some projectors to bring to the event for people to experiment with!

Join us on Thursday April 4, 4-6pm at Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse.
More info here.

Game Boy Camera Livestream
We’re bringing our beloved Game Boy camera to capture the event in glorious 8-bit resolution. Harnessing an assemblage of residual and contemporary technologies, we’ll try to see how much we can livestream through a platform that has long held a symbiotic relationship to the Sun.

Playthrough of Boktai: The Sun is In Your Hand
In 2003, Konami released a peculiar game for the Game Boy Advice called Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand. The game follows a vampire hunter named Django, the Solar Boy tasked with restoring light to a post-apocalyptic future. Thanks to the addition of a UV sensor to the game’s clunky, transparent cartridge, Boktai harnesses real-world sunlight to power Django’s in-game weapon. Consequently, the game changes dramatically when sunlight is not available, since players can no longer defeat their foes. How far will Django get before totality occurs and he can no longer power his weapon?

Background Info

What is a Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. When the Moon fully blocks the Sun—a spectacular phenomenon known as a total solar eclipse—the sky will darken as though it were dusk. Weather permitting, those of us on the path of totality will be able to see the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere usually obscured by the Sun’s bright surface.

What is the Path of Totality?
The path of totality refers to the trajectory of the Moon’s shadow across the earth’s surface. Within the path of totality, people will see a total solar eclipse; outside the path, they will only see a partial eclipse, where a bright section of the Sun, however small, will remain visible. Although this path is typically thousands of kilometers long (this one is 14,000), it’s usually only a couple of hundred kilometers wide. In order to see the total eclipse, you must be in the path of totality.

Montreal lies on the northern limit of the path of totality. This means that some of the city (and all of Laval) will only experience a partial eclipse. The duration of the total eclipse varies enormously from one place to another with it lasting 30 seconds near Park Jarry and 1 minute 26 seconds at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

You can find a full map here.

Why are solar eclipses so rare?
A solar eclipse only occurs during a new moon, the first lunar phase where the Sun and Moon have the same ecliptic longitude. (Incidentally, a new moon is only visible to the naked eye when set in silhouette against the Sun during a solar eclipse). Not all new moons produce a solar eclipse, however. The event requires the perfect alignment of the moon’s orbit around Earth and the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

When and Where Can We See It?
Parc Jean-Drapeau is an ideal venue for watching this remarkable phenomenon due to its position relative to the path of totality and the relative lack of obstructions in the landscape (i.e. no big, clunky skyscrapers).

Partial Phase: 2:14 to 3:26
The Moon will gradually move in front of the Sun, beginning to block it from view. The ambient light will decrease and the Sun will start to be seen as a crescent. Even on a cloudy day, the darkening skies will be apparent.

This phase will take around an hour, during which point you can use a pinhole projector to see images of the crescent Sun. Crescent suns will also be projected through tree leaves onto the ground.

Around 10 minutes before totality, shadows will become sharper. This is a great time to play with shadows and see if you can observe more detail. Listen for changes in the sounds of birds or insects; as the light fades, wildlife will begin to act as though night were approaching. Temperatures will also drop several degrees.

Protective eyewear must be worn during this phase.

Totality: 3:26 to 3:28
Within the path of totality, people will be able to see the Moon hide the Sun completely. The sky will darken as though it were dusk and we’ll be able to see the colors of sunset touch the horizon. The brightest stars and planets will be visible in the faux-night sky.

Only the Sun’s corona will be visible around the shape of the moon, its active magnetic field—and the stunning sight we associate with a solar eclipse.

There is no need for protective eyewear during this part of the eclipse. Remove your eclipse glasses to be able to see the event.

Partial Phase: 3:28 to 4:36
Totality will end as the Moon gradually uncovers the Sun. Ambient light will increase, the crescent of the Sun getting larger until it returns to its original shape. You’ll be able to see a bright diamond ring effect as a sliver of sunlight appears on the edge of the Moon.

Crescent suns will appear again as they had in the partial phase before totality.

Protective eyewear must be worn.

Fun Phenomena

Shadow Bands
A minute or two before totality, you can see an eerie phenomenon known as shadow bands. These are thin, wavy lines of alternating light and dark that appear to be moving and are most visible on white or light-colored surfaces. Although we still don’t know exactly what causes this strange phenomenon, they’re believed to be a product of how the Earth’s atmospheric turbulence refracts the light of the solar crescent just before and after totality.

Baily’s Beads
In the seconds before totality, you can see what looks like light dancing on the edges of the Moon or a single bright gleam on one of the Moon’s sides. This phenomenon, named after 19th century astronomer Francis Baily, occurs when bright spots of sunlight shine through the moons and valleys on its surface.

Prominences
The pink clouds of material that stretch out behind the Moon’s edges are called solar prominences. The color marks the centre of the Sun’s atmosphere, called the chromosphere.

360-degree Sunset
At the horizon, the sky will have a sunset-like glow in all directions. This is called a 360-degree sunset.

Fun Facts

  • The next total eclipse that will cross over North America won’t be until August 23, 2044. The next eclipse in Montreal, specifically, won’t be until 2205.
  • The last total eclipse to occur in Montreal took place in 1932.
  • A total eclipse occurs about once every year and a half, but most solar eclipses occur over the ocean, making them feel rarer than they actually are.
  • The Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon, but also 400 times further away. This creates the illusion that the two objects are the same size. Thanks to this unique relationship between the two, the Moon is able to completely cover the Sun’s disc when it’s directly between the Earth and the Sun.
  • Eventually, Earth will only get annular eclipses. An annular eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth while at its farthest point from the Earth. As a result, it doesn’t completely cover the Sun and instead produces the “ring of fire” effect in the sky. Because the moon is moving about an inch away from the Earth every year, the distance between planetary bodies will eventually no longer allow for the unique phenomenon of a total solar eclipse.
  • The Sun’s outer atmosphere (corona) isn’t usually visible to us because the Sun’s surface is so much better. During a total solar eclipse, however, we’re able to see the corona behind the moon.
  • During totality, nocturnal wildlife sometimes wakes up and daytime wildlife tries to head to sleep because of how much the solar eclipse mimics night.

Solar Media meets Green Software

A tall white person with short dark hair and a beard and two short white people with dark hair pose for the camera in front of a projected presentation slide that reads, "Principles of Green Software"

On October 4, 2023, the Solar Media Collective collaborated with the Green Software Foundation and the Independent Video Game Design program at Dawson College to host the first Green Software Foundation meetup in Montreal. The event featured two talks and a freeform conversation with the audience designed to get people thinking through the theories and practices of green software design.

Janna Frenzel and Marc-André Groulx (Customer Success Account Manager, Microsoft) launched the event by introducing the principles of green software engineering. These are the core set of competencies required to define, build, and run sustainable software applications. Their talk covered the need for a holistic approach to making software less resource intensive, that accounts for energy efficiency, hardware efficiency, and carbon awareness. Pitfalls such as rebound effects and Jevon’s paradox, which can cancel out the benefits of efficiency gains, were also discussed.

A white person with short dark hair and glasses is speaking to a seated audience from a podium.

Building on this core groundwork, Alex Custodio followed up with a case study of low-carbon game design for solar-powered platforms. Their talk, Greening the Game Boy, drew on work conducted with the Solar Media Collective to address how eco-critical modding practices have emerged in riposte to the regime of planned obsolescence. The presentation considered how low-carbon game design for energy efficient hardware intersect with larger conversations around greener software practices and concluded with some practical, hands-on strategies for reducing carbon emissions in gaming.

A white person with dark hair tied in a ponytail is speaking into a microphone from a podium, with a slideshow projected in the background.

back to basics

Workshop announcement that reads, "Make your first website workshop" with HTML markings

starting from nothing but a text editor and a web browser, we will code our way to HTML/CSS basics and make a first website!

this workshop will help you get started with creating websites from scratch, without using any framework.

beginners welcome! — no need to know how to code.
bring your own laptop and charger.
we also encourage the wearing of masks.

WHERE: Concordia University, EV building, Resource Room EV 11.705
WHEN: Thursday Sep 14, 2-5pm
REGISTRATION: here
Code of Engagement

the workshop is open to Concordia students and the general public.
max number of participants: 15

facilitator: Edith Viau
organized by the Solar Media Collective
supported by funding from the Milieux Institute

If you missed the workshop, you can find the content here!

A woman with brown hair and glasses standing in front of a screen for a presentation

Solarities – Thinking with the Sun

We are excited to invite you to join us on September 21, 2022 for a critical engagement with the possibilities and potentials of solar energy.

What might a world look like if our societies, communications technologies, and economies were organized around energy from the sun rather than from fossil fuels? What new infrastructures, institutions, and power structures would such a transition require? What forms of creativity, collectivity, and social organizing might we need?

Come join us for an informal discussion about all these questions and more. Our conversation will be anchored in the work of two collectives who have been grappling with these questions:

  • The Solar Media Collective is a group of researchers and makers interested in the question of how to reimagine energy and communications infrastructure for a low-carbon world. Among other things, they have been building a solar-powered server which will be used to host collaboratively developed art, games, and other material. The server will be on display at the event for participants to learn more and interact with. 
  • The After Oil Collective is an interdisciplinary group of international scholars, students, artists, activists, and practitioners who came together in 2019 for a summer school focused on imagining a world powered by solar energy. The collective recently published a short book entitled Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice (read it free online at https://manifold.umn.edu/projects/solarities).  

The conversation will involve a roundtable discussion with members of the Solar Media Collective about solar energy and its promises, possibilities, and potential problems. We will then invite participants, contributors, and audience members for an open discussion relating to the themes raised by the roundtable. 

The discussion will be followed by refreshments. RSVP here.

When: Wednesday, 21st of September, 2022, 5-7pm

Where: Milieux Institute, terrace on the 11th floor of Concordia’s EV building, 1515 Saint-Catherine St W 

Please note that this is an in-person event that will not be streamed anywhere online.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Setting up our server

Two team members, Lee and Janna, took the first steps to setting up our server in the Milieux maker space this week. Following low-tech principles and because of its versatility for prototyping, we chose to work with a Raspberrry Pi, a tiny computer that can be connected to various other hardware components such as a keyboard, a mouse, or an e-ink display. The steps for setting up a server are actually pretty straight forward thanks to the many web tutorials out there–even if one doesn’t fully understand what one is doing–but some tutorials proved to be more helpful than others.

Two laptops and a Raspberry Pi computer on a desk

A Raspberry Pi server setup consists of 4 main steps, usually referred to as the LEMP stack:

  1. Installing the Linux-based Raspian operating system on the Pi,
  2. Setting up nginx (pronounced engine-ex, hence the E in the abbreviation), an open-source software for web serving,  
  3. Installing MySQL, an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) with a client-server model
  4. Configuring PHP–which stands for Hypertext Preprocessor–an open-source, server-side scripting language.

Once we had completed Step 2, we were able to navigate to our local IP address. For now, our server is running on a local network on a phone hotspot. Our application for making it publicly accessible on Concordia University’s network is still pending.  

Here are three online tutorials that we found useful for navigating the server setup:
Build your own Raspberry Pi NGINX Web Server by Pi My Life Up
The Raspberry Pi Tutorial – A Beginner’s Guide by The Pi Hut
Introduction to Raspberry Pi with Raspbian OS by The Code Project

Text by Janna Frenzel, photo by Lee Wilkins


Solar cells, sunny buddies, and basic electrical circuits

Our first experimental session

On March 10, 2022, our group was finally able to get together in person at Milieux’s maker space to experiment with some solar equipment.

This first inaugural session was, in many of our minds, going to involve several comparative tests of different solar panels and configurations, measuring output capacity in various locations and finding optimum assemblages for our anticipated solar server launch. As luck would have it, Lee, one of our team’s hands-on technical experts, knew a little better and set us up for success by taking a step back and reviewing the fundamental concepts of electrical engineering (a much needed refresher of physics classes long ago!).

We started with learning the difference between energy and power; exploring the components of a circuit, such as a lead and a load; reviewing the meaning of watts and amps and voltages; and coming to understand the fundamental role of a controller board in mediating between our electronic devices and the solar cells we use to power them (and which, left unmediated, may well destroy them through energy fluctuations).

The session was a first step in building up our competencies and capacities before moving on to our core project of installing a solar-powered web server. We got familiar with multimeters for measuring amps and wattage at both the input and output ends of our circuits, looked at ways of powering old Gameboy consoles with solar cells, gained hands-on experience soldering together different components of electrical circuits and solar cells, and connected small solar panels to mini wind turbines (who does not want to power wind with solar?!) in order to visualize solar potential in action – which subsequently energized our imaginations as we dreamt up our various solar projects.

Text by Robert Marinov, photos by Isabelle Boucher and Malte Leander.

Hello! This is Solar Mediations, a blog by the Solar Media Collective.

Solar panels and neon signs that read "Internet" superimposed on an image of a sun dial.
Image credits: “Sun dial” by Jason Garber, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, “Solar panels in the mist” by Oregon Department of Transportation, CC BY 2.0, “Internet” by .hd., CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. All three images were cropped and remixed.

We will be posting here about our work and ongoing activities. To find out more about who we are, please see here. Thank you for your interest in our work!